It’s Mother’s Day – a time to celebrate peace, spring and mothers! Mother’s Day is now celebrated across nearly 50 countries on different days – giving millions of people the opportunity to honour their mothers and all the work they do.
Both ancient Greeks and Romans celebrated mother goddesses in the springtime and early Christians celebrated the Virgin Mary on the 4th Sunday in Lent (the 40 day period that leads up to Easter). In fact in England and Europe, Mother’s Day has been celebrated as far back as the seventeenth century and is still held on the 4th Sunday of Lent – in early March.
But in North America, it was Julia Ward Howe – who sowed the inspiration for Mother’s Day with her famous proclamation written in 1870 – which I share with you below. This inspiring appeal was written in reaction to the death and carnage following both the American Civil War and the Franco-Prussian War.
Appeal to womanhood throughout the world
Arise, then, women of this day!
Arise, all women who have hearts, Whether our baptism be of water or of tears!
Say firmly: “We will not have great questions decided by irrelevant agencies, Our husbands will not come to us, reeking with carnage, for caresses and applause. Our sons shall not be taken from us to unlearn All that we have been able to teach them of charity, mercy and patience. We, the women of one country, will be too tender of those of another country To allow our sons to be trained to injure theirs.”
From the bosom of the devastated Earth a voice goes up with our own. It says: “Disarm! Disarm! The sword of murder is not the balance of justice.” Blood does not wipe out dishonor, nor violence indicate possession. As men have often forsaken the plough and the anvil at the summons of war, Let women now leave all that may be left of home for a great and earnest day of counsel.
Let them meet first, as women, to bewail and commemorate the dead. Let them solemnly take counsel with each other as to the means Whereby the great human family can live in peace, Each bearing after his own time the sacred impress, not of Caesar, But of God.
In the name of womanhood and humanity, I earnestly ask That a general congress of women without limit of nationality May be appointed and held at someplace deemed most convenient And at the earliest period consistent with its objects, To promote the alliance of the different nationalities, The amicable settlement of international questions,
The great and general interests of peace.
—Julia Ward Howe
Go Julia Go! Later her appeal to women became known as “The Mothers Day Proclamation” because in 1872 she suggested a day to officially celebrate mothers. She campaigned for an official celebration of Mother’s Day on June 2 dedicated to peace – and succeeded in Boston, until her idea spread and was replaced by the current Mother’s Day celebrated in May.
But it’s Anna Jarvis who became the official founder of Mother’s Day in the USA – even though she never married or had children. The inspiration for Anna was her own mother, an activist and social worker who wanted to honour and pay tribute to the contributions made by mothers everywhere. When Anna’s mother died in 1905 she began to fulfill her mother’s wish – campaigning and writing to people in positions of power asking for an official recognition of a Mother’s Day holiday. Finally in 1914, then President Woodrow Wilson officially designated the second Sunday in May as Mother’s Day in America.
Interestingly, by the 1920s, Anna was upset by the commercialization of Mother’s Day. She trademarked the phrases “second Sunday in May” and “Mother’s Day” and created the Mother’s Day International Association. She also got arrested once for disturbing the peace! Sadly, Anna and her sister Ellsinore died in poverty after spending their family inheritance campaigning against what the holiday had become. I wonder what she would make of it today…
Julia Ward Howe and Anna Jarvis were two amazing women who made a difference – and left their mark on the world – before women even had the right to vote. Very inspiring.
And now, Mother’s Day has become hugely popular – and many feel over-commercialised – as people give flowers, cards and other gifts to mothers on Mother’s Day. But you don’t have to be sucked in! Instead of buying gifts, spend a day or a few hours of true quality time with your mom. And if you can’t be there or have a tricky relationship, a phonecall or handwritten card from you with a thoughtful expression of love and/or appreciation goes a long way.
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